By Joanne Kinsey, FCHS educator, Atlantic and Ocean counties, and Rachel Tansey, senior extension associate, Monmouth County
The start of the new year is the best time to initiate your personal wellness program. Take charge of your wellness path so you can enjoy your healthiest year with a few simple action steps.
The first item on the “To-do List” is to do your homework. Find reliable science-based sources of information to guide your journey through wellness. Look for guidance from your physician and sources such as the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also look at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website to find links to trustworthy sources of information.
Make personal and family wellness a priority. Set your wellness goals, then create a plan to help achieve them. Perhaps use a shared calendar so everyone in the household is aware of important family dates and activities. Consider starting a new family tradition of cooking a healthy meal or taking a weekly walk together.
Physical activity is an essential part of a wellness plan. How can you increase your movement each day? If you spend much of your day sitting at a desk or in a favorite chair, be sure to get up to walk every 30-45 minutes. Whenever possible, take a 10-minute (or longer) walk outdoors. Spending time outdoors can relax your body and brain to encourage clarity, focus, and an opportunity to de-stress.
Healthy meals and snacks are also a vital component of your wellness. Skip the unhealthy salty and sweet treats. These items are not beneficial to your body. Our diets should be 50% fruits and vegetables, with smaller amounts of protein and carbohydrates. A diet including plant-based antioxidant-rich foods can naturally reduce inflammation in our bodies. Create a regimen of healthy meals and drinking water as much as possible. Consume nutritious foods containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, and related nutrients every day.
Declutter your space to help reduce stress and avoid accidental falls at home or in the office. Sit back with a notepad and notice items that clutter your space. Take note of things that could cause hazards when in a hurry. Make a plan to add openness to the space by rearranging where you spend time working, cooking, and socializing. Having less chaos around adds efficiency to completing tasks while reducing personal safety hazards. The space should invoke a sense of calm and relaxation.
Spend time with family and friends. Studies show that socialization is important to our physical and mental health. Avoid isolation by reaching out to family and friends on a regular basis. People with a support system tend to be healthier than those without. Gather with others in-person or online to play games, share stories, or discuss books—it does wonders for the brain in addition to increasing your immune defense.
Sufficient quality sleep is critical to good health. According to the CDC, studies show that insufficient sleep—less than 7-9 hours per 24-hour period—may influence several diseases and chronic conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. The National Sleep Foundation recommends these tips for ensuring the proper quality of sleep: a comfortable bed used for sleep, not watching TV. Remove phones and electronic devices from your bedroom or silence them for at least 7-9 hours of sleep. Engage in relaxing activities before bedtime, avoid screen time within one-hour of sleep, and avoid large meals a few hours before bedtime. Speak to your physician if you are having difficulties sleeping.
“Me-time” is time well spent. Stress can have serious implications on your physical and mental well-being. Everyone needs some personal time to care for their body and mind. For instance: explore a new hobby, read a book, listen to relaxing music, learn a new skill, or observe nature. Spend a few minutes observing photographs or artwork to look for details you haven’t noticed before. Hobbies are an effective way to immerse yourself into a project and help maintain calm in your day. Practicing mindfulness and meditation are great ways to bring clarity, focus, and moments of calm when feeling stressed. Take care your yourself first, then you will be able to successfully care for others!
Remember to keep your goals attainable with simple action steps on your wellness journey which will be beneficial to you and your loved ones!
Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Family and Community Health Sciences (FCHS) Department resources are available at njaes.rutgers.edu/fchs. Look for our Wellness Wednesday webinar series; sign up for the Live Well-Stay Healthy text messages; read our fact sheets and follow our social media (FB, IG & Twitter), for a variety of consumer-friendly wellness-related topics and live cooking demonstrations.